In 1976 Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International with the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, and it has changed the lives of over 800,000 families since. Wilhelmina McNamara founded Pensacola Habitat for Humanity (PHFH) in 1981 and their first home was completed in 1984. PHFH is most recognized for its affordable homeownership program, through which the organization constructs high quality homes that families purchase with zero interest mortgages. “The goal of the program is not simply to enable families to purchase affordable homes, but also to help families build wealth through their investment, and move into a lifestyle of successful homeownership,” described Communications Director, Nancy Wolfe. Nancy grew up in a family that put home first, and one that had great respect for the work that Habitat for Humanity does. “I was fortunate to secure a position doing what I like to do most – grant writing and fundraising for and helping to promote the work we do here – for an organization I believe in very deeply,” she said.
PHFH’s mission statement is “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Pensacola Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, community and hope.” Habitat for Humanity is about so much more than home building, they also take pride in community building in which they serve and involve the community in diverse ways. Their Neighborhood Revitalization program is a great example; helping neighborhoods organize to set goals, develop plans, and make improvements to their communities. “Through Pensacola Habitat’s NR efforts, neighbors become empowered to bring issues impacting their neighborhoods to the forefront with elected officials,” said Nancy.
PHFH staff provides outreach services to potential homeowners, constructs the homes, holds applicant meetings and processes applications to purchase a home. The staff also offers assistance in resolving credit issues and providing financial fitness along with other classes to prepare new homeowners for the responsibility of a mortgage and homeownership. Individuals working toward homeownership are scheduled to contribute 200 hours of volunteer and class time. Nancy commented, “Pensacola Habitat for Humanity offers a hand up, not a hand out. Our beautifully designed, energy efficient homes are purchased by families who share the dream of successful homeownership.”
VIP Pensacola Magazine: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Nancy Wolfe: So many people do not realize the impact the lack of affordable homes has on our community, or even that we have a very large deficit in the availability of decent affordable homes for families in our community. Access to affordable homes and sustainable communities positively impacts families, employers, schools, and crime. The data that really moves me pertains to student success in school. According to US Census Bureau data, roughly 10% of residential moves from 2012 to 2013 were motivated by a need to find more affordable housing due to eviction or foreclosure. Children who lack a stable home and are subsequently forced to transfer schools are statistically more likely to develop behavior and attention problems.
VIP: What is the biggest moment that has stood out in the last year?
NW: Pensacola Habitat for Humanity won The Homebuilder’s Association of West Florida’s Parade of Home “Outstanding Home Award” for Homes under $160k in April of 2016. Over the past several years we have made several improvements to our homes and to our homebuyer program. This home is an embodiment of our philosophy to provide a product that builds wealth and is affordable for our local workforce. It is a concrete way of helping the general public understand that Pensacola Habitat is more than homes; we develop sustainable communities by providing products and services that match the aesthetic of the area served.
VIP: Is Pensacola Habitat for Humanity involved in any local events?
NW: Yes! We organize a number of local events ourselves, for example our annual community summit, held each June to bring community leaders and advocates together with the general public to explore critical issues in our community and brainstorm potential resources and solutions to meet community needs.
Pensacola Habitat also partners and participates with many other community events and activities. We attend community events like Scratch Ankle, we are active in the local Chambers of Commerce, and meet one on one with business leaders to provide information about our program to pass along to employees who may benefit from purchasing a Habitat home.
Coming up on April 22 is Pensacola Hot Wheels Food Truck Festival featuring dishes from a variety of cooking styles and flavors coming together at Plaza DeLuna in downtown Pensacola to benefit Pensacola Habitat for Humanity. Recruitment is also now beginning for 140 women (men are welcome as well!) or 14 teams of ten to join in Women Build 2017. Individuals will raise $500 each (teams of 10 raise $5,000) to build a home for a family in our community. In October, these builders will celebrate their success, don their pink hardhats, raise their pink hammers and step onto the build site to construct the home.
VIP: What have been some obstacles you’ve faced and some of your triumphs so far?
NW: Probably the biggest obstacle to our efforts is overcoming the false understanding many people in our community have — that Pensacola Habitat for Humanity builds unattractive homes in the poorest parts of town and gives those homes away. In contrast, as evidenced by our Parade of Homes award, the organization builds beautiful, energy efficient homes. We are constantly looking to build in neighborhoods and communities that support and promote successful families and healthy living. And our homes are not given away, however they are made considerably more affordable than homes for sale in the traditional market, because Habitat homes are sold with a zero percent interest mortgage.
VIP: What are some ways that community members can contribute, help and get involved?
NW: We have so many ways people can get involved with our work.
Volunteering is one great way! Here are our current volunteer needs:
- Build Site: The tornado recovery effort is underway in Century, Florida. We are now recruiting individuals and groups of up to 10-12 volunteers to help frame houses Tuesday-Saturday each week.
- ReStore: We are seeking individual volunteer groups of up to 5 for our ReStore; Habitat for Humanity’s second-hand thrift shop. People donate gently used items and we sell those items at discounted prices to the public and put 100% of the profit into building homes.
- Global Village: Trips that combine hard work, mission work, and tourism to create a unique, one-of-a-kind travel experience combined with creating tangible impact. This year we are planning a trip to historic Antigua and Sololá, Guatemala and to Malawi Africa.
- Homebuyer outreach: We are always looking for ways to get information about the availability of our homeownership program out to potential Habitat homebuyers. We reach out to individuals directly, as well as through networks of businesses and faith communities. If you have a business that would like to assist your employees in becoming successful homeowners, or are a member of a faith community that would like to reach out to its members, please contact our offices.
NW: Our Women Build campaign empowers women (and men) to advocate for affordable homes and share responsibility for raising the funds for and actually building a home. Many times there is considerable doubt whether we can succeed. Donors, volunteers, Habitat staff and Habitat homebuyers work passionately side by side so another family in our community can have a safe, affordable, healthy home. We surpassed our fundraising goal by more than $3,000.00 last year and the pride and feeling of accomplishment everyone felt was amazing. Knowing a mother and daughter would have a great new home to live in — one that they too, helped to build — was the best of all.